General discussion

What Lincoln thought about labor and capital

One of the obvious party differences in modern political philosophy has been the absolute reverence conservative republicans hold for the rich. They imbue the designation "Job Creator" with an almost religious respect. They believe that the accumulated capital of the nations wealthy should be maintained as if that money was the pure headwaters that gives bounty to the rest of the country and the common man. Conservatives argue that modern labor unions and financial regulation has led to the current economic state of the country because the nations wealthy have been forced by the greed of the common laborer to move industry out of the country.

Republicans also like to evoke a proud heritage of what their party has done for this country and how they were always the party for the common man. This begs the question... what would arguably the greatest republican who ever lived think about modern republican economic ideology?

From Abraham Lincolns first state of the nation address to congress on December 3, 1861.

It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class——neither work for others nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families——wives, sons, and daughters——work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, they labor with their own hands and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.

Again, as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

What would Lincoln think of the modern Republican party?

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Envy, envy, envy,'s just eating you up inside. "Covet not...."

As for Lincoln, you better read that more carefully, sounds like he'd fit right in the Republican party today as much as he did then. He's saying he's all for capital being the job creator and only against the unhired labor since it interferes with the hired labor chance to first work for another, then by savings to buy his own land and work it, then to hire a "beginner" labor to help. Amazing how much it sounds just like the party of today.

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You confuse Disgust and Opposition with Envy. I assure you,

I covet nothing but a fair system which doesn't treat the wealthy and corporations as better than the rest of us. Of everyone here, those of us outside the US covet nothing that you can provide. My needs are all taken care of by the Canadian Government. Fortunately the rent on my property in Maryland pays the taxes and the upkeep, but doesn't yield much in the way of yearly income, which goes into savings in the US for my son.

But years of reading your peculiar screeds assures me that is a distinction you will never understand. And Envy, as a four letter word is one you can spell.


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The second to last sentence

says it all...."No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who TOIL UP FROM poverty; none less inclined to TAKE or TOUCH aught which they have not HONESTLY EARNED." Add in the last sentence and you have the finishing touch to liberty.

I think Lincoln would be very happy and comfortable with the Conservative Republican party today (not so much from too many decades back where Republicans were continuously caving in to the Liberal Democrats giving everything to everyone in order to control the 'lower' classes and keep the liberals in power).

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wow, you guys need to work on reading comprehension

First off, y'all totally forget that these comments were made during the first year of the US Civil war. Thus, the comments are not just directed about the common working man who is paid, but about all working men. He even points out that the majority of the south is composed of "neither slaves nor masters". He stresses that capital eg wealth, is the fruit of labor and would not exist were it not for those who toil.

Lincoln extols those who go on to hire another to give them a chance to prosper, but only does so AFTER warning that capital could not exist without labor. That capital is the fruit of labor. The current Republican dogma is that labor can not exist without capital, and modern republican leadership would work to engineer a system that would only maintain this unequal arrangement of power.

Try reading the whole speech kids. Maybe look at a timeline of US history and read a biography or two about old Honest Abe.

Lets see, should I quote Eisenhower or Reagan next, to compare how the modern Republican party has strayed from their own legendary Icons?

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Even Lincoln

stated that capital begets labor, labor then begets capital after laboring for a while and saving that capital to then have their OWN capital and strike out on their own, then THAT capital begets MORE labor, and the circle keeps going. Yes, capital is the fruit of labor, but without the capital AND laborers who WANT capital, capital means as little as the labor does. Right now we have a huge workforce that has no DESIRE to labor because GOVERNMENT has made it easy for them NOT to have that desire....when you have GOVERNMENT providing everything you need and you don't HAVE to labor for it, the ONLY ones that are going to make capital are the ones risking it in INVESTMENTS and not product or service. THAT is what is happening now, and THAT is the money that BO wants to tax heavily...however, even if you take every dime in taxes off those that are wealthy it won't do any good toward reducing the deficit because the 'bottom' circle will capital being invested in expansion of existing businesses or being invested in NEW ventures that lure LABORERS away from the government handouts, and the actual labor force diminishes even more than it is already because now THEY go on the government dole. Eventually the government dole runs out of 'dole' money because there aren't enough workforce anymore to help pay for the expense of those on that treadmill. The government doesn't provide does no matter how many ways you try to convince yourself and others otherwise. Government RUINS the labor force when they infringe in areas they don't belong.

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prove it

You, along with others, keep making this claim...

we have a huge workforce that has no DESIRE to labor

Yet everyone I know who is out of work, wants a decent job. When you watch the news for the western PA / WV area (which was once the countries industrial heartland), all you see is people talking about wanting to work.

I really have to question how valid the whole premise for your economic and political views really are.

Either way, your comments do nothing to refute my thesis that Lincoln's views of the roles of labor and capital vary widely from the modern republican parties.

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What were the statistical numbers

for the number of people on welfare prior to 2007? I know we already have 23 million out of work right now with 49 million on foodstamps. If you subtract out around 8 million (high estimate) of the number of people who lost their jobs in 2007/2008, you are left with 15 million people PRIOR to the meltdown that were not working desire to work? Or perhaps working 'under the table' for some so they didn't have to file taxes and could still collect welfare? That's a HUGE workforce......and that's what I was referring to.

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A meaningless exercise since the crash began that year

and welfare rolls have risen precipitately as a result of 7 years of Republican policies. Statistics don't meaningfully compare best situations with worst. They are used to compare best with best, and worst with worst. In other words, apples with apples. Comparing best with worst is comparing apples with strawberries and is thus meaningless.


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wake up

Obama's been in there almost 4 years and it's only gotten worse. But don't blame the obvious, instead blame the sublime.

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I guess he forgot that Republicans

didn't start welfare......and those who lost their jobs when the crash began until now have increased steadily. But that's a meaningless exercise to figure out that there are 23 M out of work now, minus a very high estimate of 8 M who lost jobs since 2007 when the crash started...that leaves 17M who weren't working before that many of those were 'rich' and didn't have to work vs not only all the legal citizens on welfare but all the illegals to boot? Now, if there are 12M illegals here and half of those are kids who don't count for the work age bracket, that's still leaving 11M of our own citizens who are living high off the government hog.......and IT'S ALL THE REPUBLICAN'S FAULT.

Good grief..........

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Opinions like Lincoln's were a staple of 19th Century

economic thought, particularly ones like the one quoted above. It was one of the failures of Marxism that it failed to recognize the need for equipment, and raw materials in its argument that only labour generated surplus value, only labour could generate capital. Now if that aspect of Marxism is a central tenet, and it is, why is it being quoted by the most retrograde elements in the United States. I mean, it's Marxism !! Then again, Americans know nothing of Marxism except that it's bad. It isn't bad, it's not, it's informative, it's just deeply flawed as an entire economic system.

I'd prefer you quoted Eisenhower's final address to the nation, warning about the danger of the Military Industrial Complex, since that eats up more than 50% of National Expenditures. The untouchable half. And just how big was Military Spending in 1959??? It wasn't 50%. 30%, 35%??

Ignorantia nihil excusat. Ignorance excuses nothing.


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(NT) Not meant for Grim, but for Toni's post "Even Lincoln".
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Another chicken and egg argument, IMO

Money (capital) does nothing until moved from one pocket to another in a different pair of pants and money is what we trade when we cannot trade labor directly. Each, like energy, exist in both potential and kinetic states. You might also consider that, if you have money left over after all expenses are paid, what you really have is labor owed to you.

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a Socialist

believes money is great when it's in his pocket, horrible when in someone else's. He doesn't care really who the money actually belongs to, that's secondary to wanting his pocket filled. Ziks is sitting there in Canada hoping they'll keep putting it in his pocket, as he just stated.

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maybe he lives next door to JP

and they fish for six months at a whack cuz it's cheap entertainment.

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Everytime many decent jobs R on offer,they attract thousands

of applicants. But people are so discouraged that single jobs at minimum wage, while they are always filled, don't attract a crowd of applicants. All the Republicans are offering are minimum wage jobs. What Democrats and President Obama are trying to do is to offer worthwhile jobs at more than minimum wage, Why bother saving the Auto industry which the conservatives here said was a waste of time, and shouldn't have been done. You know, some of us actually do remember what you said 4 years ago.


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Lincoln would be appalled at the Party of Wealth and

Privilege, the Party of Corporate and not Individual interests. Unfortunately trying to persuade the Rock Headed Conservatives here is an utter waste of time. You think Lincoln would approve of the "Citizens" United vs the FEC Supreme Court decision? Not a chance. He'd be on the side of the Individual not the Corporation. That is clearly apparent in all his speeches. But nobody but you, me, Josh, JPBill, Kees, our English friend and Roger care.

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Then all of you

need to write some new speeches and fool people into believing Lincoln gave them instead. Short of that, you're just whistling Dixie!

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What bothers me about trying to apply any modern day

relevance is that Lincoln seemed to be making those points in the context of slavery and the abolition of it. There may have been confusion by some as to what defined the most base type of slavery and that which may have been similar to bond servitude or other forms of work for hire. His phrasing such as refers to hired labor "being fixed to that condition for life" does not sound to me like some generic expression but a more specific one related to that time and the arguments that took place during it. I think we can be greatly mistaken when we try to apply past thinking to today's situations. As for changes in the two parties and their philosophies over time, I doubt anyone from either, had they been frozen in death and thawed out today, would recognize the one they with which they were allied.

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